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May 27th 2019

A Champion's Guide to Personal Narrative Essay Writing

When given a narrative essay assignment, what first comes to your mind? Do you think of experiences, some life stories, or some anecdotes you wish to share with readers? Well, a personal narrative essay is all this and much more. You can mix and mingle, play with words, and simply enjoy the liberty to express yourself freely and creatively.

Some students see the opportunity to write a narrative essay as liberating. When compared to other essay types, the narrative type is definitely among the most flexible assignments. But, for others, the request to creatively narrate a story or experience is much more complex than writing an essay based on specific instructions and guidelines.

In the end, it is all up to your preference. Narrative essays are personal essays, which makes you dig deeper into your personality and experiences, as well as your understanding of the world around you. For some, this can be a real torture.

how to write a personal narrative essay

Defining Narrative Essays

By definition, narrative essays are texts used to share a story or a personal experience in a creative, inspirational, and personal way. People love reading and hearing stories, which is why the interest for this particular essay type is much bigger when it comes to the audience. For a student, a first person narrative essay is a way to be understood and heard by the professor, which can greatly influence the final grade and academic reputation of that same student.

All of this requires that you not only create a good structure as with other essays, but also write a very compelling story people won't want to stop reading.

Writing a personal narrative essay is an opportunity to share your voice and your story with the readers. These are full of emotions and opinions. So, when you are given the assignment to work on a personal narrative paper, the goal of the professor is to develop your storytelling skills and narrative style writing, as well as evaluate your understanding and knowledge of a given subject.

Because of their nature, narrative essays can be very exciting and are never dull. Moreover, professors hardly ever assign a personal essay topics since, of course, this has to result from your own experiences and opinions.

This adds an extra task to your list of essay writing obligations, but it also makes it possible for you to write on your personal essay ideas, the ones you actually like, instead of writing on a pre-assigned one.

Now that you know and understand what a narrative paper is, it is time to learn how to write a narrative essay.

A Champion's Guide to Personal Narrative Essay Writing

Are you ready to learn the tricks behind writing this essay? Here is a guide on how to write a narrative essay:

Step One: Choose between Personal Narrative Ideas

Before you get to writing a personal narrative paper, your task will be to find a topic. As we said, the topic for this task is rarely assigned, so it is up to the writer to come up with great personal narrative ideas for the content. Now, in order to talk on one topic for the length of an entire essay that is interesting from end to finish, you need to choose one that you are interested in and passionate about.

The ideal topic is one that you can convert into an interesting story that will matter to the audience and that matters to you. If you aren't passionate about the topic you choose for this essay type, this will be easily noticeable once the reader starts going through the content you've provided.

To choose a topic out of all those ideas, do some brainstorming. Note down every topic you come up with and start eliminating. The ones that are too hard to express are the first ones to go from the list. Next, you need to remove the ones that do not have a lot to share, since you'll need actual stories to write the entire paper length. And finally, you're eliminating based on preference and passion.

In the end, you should have one or two topics on that list to choose from. If you can't make the final choice, consult with someone close to you. They will tell you what sounds more appealing – that's the topic you should go with.

Personal Narrative Essay Topics Ideas

For most students, an inspiration is a key to finding a great topic. And while there are some amazing examples of narrative writing for you to check all over the web, you still might need a boost to choose your own.

the best personal narrative ideas

To give you a boost and provide you with some motivation, we came up with 20 amazing personal narrative topics:

  1. The most exciting day in your life
  2. A wonderful summer vacation you've had
  3. Some trip that included a surprise or something unexpected
  4. A time in your life when you experienced something very scary or spooky
  5. A moment in your life where you learned something new that changed your life
  6. The time when you moved from a home you loved to a new place
  7. The person that you met and changed your life
  8. A person you admire and look up to, and why
  9. Something very funny that has happened to you or your friends
  10. The most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you
  11. A memory when you were lost and couldn't find your way
  12. Sad experiences of people you care about, with people you care about, or about people you care about
  13. The moment when you found the hobby that changed your life
  14. An accomplishment that was extremely challenging, but totally worth it
  15. Something that happened that makes you feel discriminated or rejected
  16. A random and unexpected act of kindness that you witnessed or did
  17. An injury you have suffered in the past and how it affected you
  18. Some historic event that has an influence on you or you have a strong opinion about
  19. A time when you witnessed an important or major event
  20. A very difficult decision you had to make in your life

Step Two: Write a Personal Narrative Outline

A personal essay outline can do many things to help a student. It is the final step of the pre-writing stage of any academic paper writing process. Without it, you can easily get lost in writing later, fail to mention the key information, and will definitely spend much more time than the necessary to write the essay.

An outline is a kind of a narrative summary, a plan that lets you find spot for each of the main points, organize all body paragraphs into a cohesive order, and ensure that you can develop each of the ideas you have about the essay. This kind of narrative summary will take minutes of your time to prepare, but it will prevent you from being stuck when you are writing a narrative essay.

Just think of the outline as a map, one that shows you where to put what evidence, what paragraph comes next, how to substantiate your main points, and how to finish the essay.

Outlining is a helping tool for thoughts organization, but it is also the point where you organize all that data you gather through research. In most cases, narrative essays don't require a lot of research. Depending on the topic you choose, you might not even have to perform any research whatsoever.

This sounds amazing, doesn't it? This is perhaps the only essay type that you can write without visiting libraries, checking online sources, and reading those endless articles to grasp ideas from.

However, your essay still will contain some important information, perhaps a quote from someone you talked to or an anecdote you wish to share. All of this in combination with every idea you have about the essay belongs in the outline.

Once you have the outline ready, you'll know how to start a personal essay.

Step Three: Start the First Draft

This advice applies to any type of essay writing, so it's only natural that you should use it for this essay, too – write freely. Your outline will come very handy when you need to organize the drafts or you forget what comes next. But, for this very first draft, don't focus on the narrative essay format, the structure, or the content.

Since narrative essays are basically personal thoughts put on paper, this is more important than ever. Don't interrupt that thought flow. You'd still have to make more drafts even if you do, so the best thing you can do at this time is write without stopping and going back. 

how to write a narrative essay fast

Step Four: Revise the Draft

A perfect essay will result of more than one or two drafts. We can't tell you how to write a personal narrative to the point, but there are still some rules that apply to any essay. Ideally, the revision process should contain of the following actions:

  • Include the key elements

Any story you'll ever write will contain key, storyline elements. These include a description, characters, setting, plot, etc. The combination of these elements is what makes the readers understand your essay and feel intrigued by your story.

  • Present your point of view clearly

When asked how to write a personal narrative essay, there's one big advice we can give you – focus on your point of view, your emotions and understandings of the topic. This is the core of a narrative paper and readers have to understand what your stand and role is in the presented story. So, whatever you share with the audience, take a stand and tell it from your point of view by sharing your perspective and your emotions.

  • Skip the irrelevant

Very often, people who write narrative essays get too carried away in their own thoughts, they share more than they should. When you revise the first draft, expect to find many such occasions. Even though this is important to you, you have to remove the things that don't impact, influence, or have any importance in terms of the story.

  • Prove and support

You can't just toss opinions in your writing without any solid ground for them to stand on. Even though this essay kind doesn't demand much research, you still have to provide the readers with some facts, references, and examples that make them better understand your thoughts.

  • Go for clarity

People don't want to read essays that are filled with complex statements and sentences, especially not when the essays serve to tell an interesting story. Everything you share in your essay should be clear and ambiguous to the readers, so remove any vague sentences from it before you finalize the essay.

  • Use chronological order

When it comes to narrative essays, the best approach is a chronological approach. You can stray from this and move things around, but only if you are experienced enough to provide clarity despite the mixed order of things. Otherwise, the safest way to write a narrative essay and to avoid unnecessary confusion is to use chronological order.

  • Check the instructions

Your story will be irrelevant to the professor if you don't pay attention to what he actually requested. Most of the time, you'll be given some requirements and guidelines to follow. During your draft revisions, check the requested narrative essay format, word length, and any other demands your professor had about this assignment.

  • Find every mistake and error

Revising the essay includes editing and proofreading it. These two can be the hardest part of the revision process, so don't make the mistake of taking them lightly. A single spell check won't do the job and can miss more than you can imagine. That's why essays require so many edits on behalf of the writer – the more you read it, the more you can edit and perfect before you submit the essay.

When it comes to editing and proofreading, your best shot is to give it to someone else. But, if you decide to do this on your own, make sure to use various approaches to find all the errors and fix them.

  • Be very descriptive

A narrative essay is by nature, a descriptive essay. Storytelling demands details and descriptions that will reel the audience in and make them understand your stance. So, even if you created a very general, highly outlined first draft, add some descriptions in between to make the reader understand your story better.

The Bottom Line

Essay writing is much harder on students when they're actually given the task to write one. Because of the vast number of different essay types and the never-ending topic choices, students are often left fighting with a writer's block, unable to start, organize, or finish their essay.

But, if you want to create a paper that's worthy of an A, you can use this four-step guide and practice your essay writing skills. With time, essay skills are built on and the entire task becomes much easier and more bearable. And since narrative essays are the most flexible essays that you'll be assigned, there's no better time for you to enjoy and let your creativity lead you!

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